Friday, September 5, 2014
Posted by el duque at 8:05 AM
Yesterday, the Incompetent Empire leaked news that Brian Cashman will almost surely return next year as GM, probably with a three or five year deal. This should effectively curtail the annual end-of-season, fan lynch mob demanding his dismissal, or his being boiled in oil. It's hard to fathom exactly what this means to next year's dream team.
These days, franchises can change course fast. In the span of 10 weeks, Boston went from world superpower to garage sale. As rotted as things look now, the Yankees have the money to retool next winter, and if they can grab a $100 million pitcher and avoid another Alfonso Soriano/Travis Halfner/Vernon Wells/Andruw Jones dead zone in the lineup - who knows? Cashman can't pick the wrong players forever... can he?
Let's give the man credit. Cashman is relentless in scouring the waiver wire. He must have a phone ap that dings whenever a 2008 all-star's name surfaces on the MLB dumpster. Over the years, his mega-deals have run fifty-fifty. You could say he won the Curtis Granderson trade (because we won a few divisional titles) or lost it (because we gave up Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson, Phil Coke). You can point out his mistakes (Melky Cabrera, Tyler Clippard) or his victories (Nick Swisher, Michael Pineda - for now). If we have Cashman for another three years, the truth is, it could be worse.
I do not claim to know the internal machinations of the Yankees front office. I won't pretend I do. But if you've worked in a large business, and you've seen the winners and losers within the power structure, there are always people who somehow keep rising, even when the organization itself is floundering. Something separates them from the fall guys, the whipping mules, the guys whose shoes are always unlaced. Cashman has managed to avoid being blamed for the meltdown of the Yankee farm system. Not only that, he managed to keep his lieutenants in place. Nobody hung from the Steinbrenner rope. Let's face it: He has a genius survival instinct. If the asteriod hits, and the world becomes bugs and lizards, Cashman will be there, too.
Listen: This does not make Brian Cashman a bad person. It just makes him a pro.
So... how do these corporate suits survive, even when the business flops? Here are some common attributes:
1. They are always the coolest, funniest and smartest voice in the room. They dominate the daily meeting, gabbing about world news, celebrities and whatever Joba said. They make everybody else look dense. Considering some of the ancient bozos in the Yankee front office, Cashman might look witty by default. Thus, when Cashman makes a bad deal, he is invulnerable to internal criticism, because everybody else signed off on it, too.
2. They never let prospective replacements get a toe-hold. Cashman's heir apparent is Billy Eppler - his Ben Cherington to Theo Epstein. The Yanks recently supported Eppler's quest to become San Diego Padres GM, but he lost out in the finals. It will interesting to see if Eppler stays. At some point, he could become a threat. For years, Cashman hired ex-GMs from other teams, giving them a job until they hooked up with a new organization. None of them ever stayed long enough to threaten Cashman's job. And, by the way, there is nothing wrong with this. In fact, it is a very smart tactic: The Yankees learn about other organizations.
3. They always know where the bodies are buried. Here, I believe, is Cashman's "GET OUT OF JAIL FREE" card. He knows things. He knows about hushed-up DWIs, or sexual harassment claims, or something. The things he knows are the things the Yankee organization can never allow someone on the outside to know. Let me repeat that I don't know of any specific things here. In fact, the things Cashman knows might not be so bad - Hal Steinbrenner is not a serial rapist - but they are just unpleasant enough for Hal to always want Brian Cashman on the inside, pissing out. Not the other way around.
So... get used to Cashman. He will be the Yankee GM until the day he dies, or retires, a la Stick Michael, to some upper-level position, and turns the keys over to Eppler. And this isn't the worst that could happen. (A Lenny Dykstra-style GM, selling snake oil, is the worst that could happen.) Cashman is, after all, the consumate pro. It's the machinations within the front office that should worry us.
Will Hal want to sign another Ichiro and forfeit the draft pick that could bring the next Trout? If he does, Cashman will cut the deal. Because Cashman will survive. He will never say, "NO, I WILL QUIT IF YOU DO THAT." Survivors do not do such things. The Yankees will never become the St. Cardnals, when it comes to developing young players. But Cashman will never sleep. That waiver wire ap on his phone will always be dinging. And he will rise to hit the laptop.
Because there is one last - and formidable - reason why the Cashmans of the world survive.
4. Nobody else in creation wants the job as much as they do.
So there you have it. All this time, you were wondering if Cashman would stay or go? If the Yankees failed to make the post-season, would there be massive changes? Meh. What a joke. Some things are eternal, immortal... forever. For Yankee fans, Brian Cashman is one of them.